The Fortnight in September

The Fortnight in September R.C. Sherriff

The Fortnight in September by RC Sherriff was first published in September 1931. It was glowingly reviewed: ‘A lovely novel,’ declared the Daily Telegraph, ‘a little masterpiece’ wrote the Sunday Express. In America the Saturday Review of Literature thought that ‘nothing since Dickens has come closer to giving between covers the intrinsic spirit of England.’ The Spectator reviewer said: ‘There is more simple human goodness and understanding in this book than in anything I have read for years... Once more, the author of Journey’s End has enriched our lives.’

Journey’s End (1929) is one of the great stage plays. Set during the First World War, it had no women in it, no heroes and no love interest – it was about the hopes and fears of a group of ordinary men waiting in a dug-out for an attack to begin. It was based on Sherriff’s own letters home, and its success was in part due to his ability to recreate the trench experience exactly as he had lived it.

The Fortnight in September, written two years after Journey’s End, shares its emphasis on real people leading real lives. But the atmosphere could not be more different, embodying as it does the kind of mundane normality the men in the dug-out longed for – domestic life at 22 Corunna Road in Dulwich, the train journey via Clapham Junction to the south coast, the two weeks living in lodgings and going to the beach every day (also wonderfully evoked by EM Delafield in the short story in The Persephone Book of Short Stories). The family’s only regret is leaving their garden where, we can imagine, because it is September the dahlias are at their fiery best (hence the endpaper): as they flash past in the train they get a glimpse of their back garden, where ‘a shaft of sunlight fell through the side passage and lit up the clump of white asters by the apple tree.’ This was what the First World War soldiers longed for


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Persephone Books Ltd
336 pp.
Engelstalige literatuur

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